With great ‘Power Up’ comes great responsibility

Over two years ago, Jif started to let go of one of the most recognizable and old-fashioned, exclusionary slogans marketing has ever seen.

That slogan – “Choosy Moms Choose Jif” – was beginning to disappear from television ads, print material and its website. Specifically, the removal from its main menu and relative prominence of the website offered a powerful sign that Smucker’s, its parent company, might actually be eliminating a sexist vibe from its messaging.

The switch was a positive implication to dads that they finally mattered as parents and customers, and that the company was at last recognizing today’s modern family. The shuttering of the slogan indicated that Jif was serious about modernizing, catching up to the times and maximizing profit.jif22.jpg

But then it introduced a new product, and how easy it went back to its old ways. Behold Jif Power Ups, a bite-size snack that’s portable and convenient. It looks tasty enough, but taste can be a funny thing when it’s genderized. Then it’s just in poor taste.

That’s because Jif went back to its old ways by declaring the product offers “the goodness moms want.” While leaving dad out may seem like an innocent omission, the fact remains that Jif has a history of targeting who it wants as customers, and it’s sliding back to its old routine. It’s an unfortunate truth, especially as dads remain ever viable as parents and shoppers in a crowded field of grocers. Dads want to be treated as a member of the family, and they will when advertisers begin to use their power to exert control and influence over behavior in a positive fashion.

Until then, society has to wait while Jif trumpets the old-school notion that mom is the lead parent, with reality constantly proving otherwise.

If you head over to its Power Ups product page, you’ll surprisingly find some much needed inclusive language, plus humor from famed funnyman Neil Patrick Harris — who just happens to be a dad. If he knew of Jif’s marketing exclusion, it’s doubtful he’d be laughing, nor wanting to sponsor a product that doesn’t even consider him a primary target audience.

Dads are a crucial and equal part of the family, and they want goodness as much as anyone. It’s time for change, Jif.

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Can’t dads put sunscreen on kids?

aveenobaby2It’s ironic how there are some who admonish dads for their lack of parental involvement, and some who spend their time furthering that notion through advertising.

Take, for instance, this parent magazine ad for Aveeno Baby, produced by a company who believes that it’s only mom’s duty to handle a child’s skin protection.  That company may argue that “market research indicates…” or “readers prefer…” or “our focus groups suggest…” – but the fact is that it’s furthering a perception which is unfair, sexist and wrong.

Dads shop.  Dads parent.  Dads care.  And, well, dads apply sunscreen.

If you aren’t bothered by this chauvinistic ad, you should be for more reasons than one.  Not only does it disregard and intentionally exclude dads, it also uses the image of a boy to sell its product, the very product that will one day ignore this same boy should he become a father someday.  Spouses, too, should be bothered by this gender annexation:  that person they’re ignoring is your partner, your equal, your helpmate in this adventure called parenting.

Interestingly, last week we received a note from @KnowYourObama, who said, “Marketers don’t market to dads as parents because, mostly, they’re not.”

There’s no telling why this person believe this, but we wanted to chat a little more, and the following brief conversation ensued:

@dad_marketing:  “I think you might have offended Obama, plus a lot of other dedicated dads.”

@KnowYourObama:  “Obama’s a good dad, yes. But good dads – dads – are hard to find. Yay for the good ones.”

Here at DM Headquarters, we have no hard data to prove that there are more dedicated dads than uninvolved dads, but there should at least be some protection against libel, or perhaps some rules which guide what marketers can or can’t say.aveenobaby

Marketing departments have been saying or doing whatever they wanted for years, sometimes with little adaptation for societal changes – all in the pursuit of the almighty dollar.  It takes some real honorable companies to take a stand and do what is right and not just offer lip service (check out Jif-maker Smucker’s, and its “promise” page).

And who – you might ask – makes Aveeno Baby lotion?  None other than Johnson & Johnson, who has a history of waffling on gender equality.

To quote a word from Aveeno’s own ad, parents (dads included) have “trusted” Aveeno Baby and Johnson & Johnson for years.  When will that trust be returned?

One small tweet from Maggie, one giant leap for change

A few days ago we retweeted a story about this young girl who fought back against a sexist sign, and ultimately claimed victory as the sign was removed.maggie

Her modest, ingenious and charming complaint challenged the higher beings at a store in England, and executives listened.

Way to go, Maggie!

Her protest got us thinking about the foolishness of Jif’s tagline, Choosy Moms Choose Jif.

If a young girl can get the attention of a large retailer, why can’t Jif take inventory of its own sexist practice? Doesn’t their parent company, Smucker’s, want to market their goods to all and be perceived as a modern, progressive, with-the-times business? What does their four-word marketing message say to households without a mom present?

We’ve discussed some of Jif’s plight before, and again, and yet again.

Jif’s stale slogan was created decades ago, during a bygone era when mothers generally handled cooking, cleaning and household shopping. Jif is essentially hanging that chore on mom in present day, and indirectly, the cooking and cleaning, too.  Doesn’t Jif’s approach remind you a little of this?

Yes, even as the year 2015 looms, an embarrassing, inane catchphrase has long passed the old-fashioned phase; in today’s world, the saying looks downright irrational.

The interesting thing about Maggie’s dispute is that despite its marvelous simplicity, it only changed in-store wording for the better. For example, another major retailer, ToysRUs, still categorizes shopping selections as “Boys’ Toys” and “Girls’ Toys.”

So, in theory, little has changed and her fight could still go on.

Jif, on the other hand, is so stuck in time and dead set in its ways that we know there’s still a long way to go toward making things right. Jif is indeed a tough peanut to crack (they won’t even respond to us, or acknowledge us), but we know at least one 7-year-old who could bring the entire empire to its knees.

What do you say, Maggie?

Innovation is useless without marketing to match it

jifwhipsWhile we consider ourselves marketing watchdogs, we can certainly take a moment to give a product credit where it’s due.

Despite all the fair and deserving scrutiny we lend our friends at Smucker’s, we think Jif is a tasty and fresh product. (Just don’t expect a Christmas card from us this year, Jif.)

Product innovation, on the other hand, has never exactly been one of Jif’s strong points. After debuting in 1958, it took nearly two decades to introduce its extra crunchy flavor (1974), followed by a healthier version (1991), again, almost two decades after that.

Now, exactly two more decades after 1994’s Reduced Fat Jif, we now have Jif Whips, as we noticed in a primetime TV commercial last night.

It wasn’t like we were expecting to see the old-fashioned “Choosy” tagline eradicated from the ad, but we were hoping it might be a chance for Jif to match this product originality with the beginnings of a marketing slogan revolution that could catapult the company into modernism.

We should have known better.

Like an eighties child attached to tired catchphrases of yesteryear, Jif remains unknowingly insistent on showing its old age, unable to let go of a past by introducing an inventive, new product mismatched with a slogan that simply doesn’t work anymore.

This isn’t like a midlife crisis — [insert mumbling voice] you’re 56, by the way, Jif — it’s more like a catastrophe. A disaster. And certainly an embarrassment.

This awkward screen shot only validates the confused and gauche product we call Jif.

We know Jif doesn’t really care for dads, but what do gay dads think of the “Choosy” slogan and its website’s “mom advisor”?  Has Jif even bothered to ask?  It’s unfathomable how long this ridiculous slogan has lasted, but it’s difficult to disengage from pride.

Actually, we’re not asking Jif to run away from its traditions, but it cannot become a slave to its past. Its past is its present. It can’t let a so-called unchangeable slogan be an excuse for a possible eradicating perception as a pioneering company, or at least for being the best it can be. It must aggressively compete for every customer imaginable, and cannot sneer at innovative marketing thoughts and forward thinking simply because it’s connected to some slogan from which it can’t let go.

The great brands don’t sit on a slogan for life, and even the rare ones who can (Nike comes to mind), don’t possess a phrase that’s old-fashioned at best, and gender-parental exclusionary at worst.

We insist, all of the above is a recipe for an eventual loss of market share.

What do you say, Jif? Can you whip up something new?

At least one Christmas card and a whole lot more customers might depend on it.